Palestinian peace negotiators resign over settlements
RAMALLAH – The entire team of Palestinian peace negotiators has resigned to protest continued Israeli settlement building, two of them said Wednesday, November 13, but president Mahmud Abbas has yet to accept their resignations.
Negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh told Agence France-Presse the move was in response to "increasing settlement building (by Israel) and the absence of any hope of achieving results."
"Until now, president Abbas has not accepted our resignation," he added.
Shtayyeh held Israel "completely responsible for the failure of negotiations, because of the continuation and escalation of settlement building."
Another negotiator, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the resignations.
"Abbas has a number of choices here – he can refuse or accept and form a new delegation, or demand a new negotiations mechanism," he said, referring to the possibility of indirect talks through a US team.
Chief negotiator Saeb Erakat is among those who submitted their resignations, the sources said.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that Abbas remained committed to peace talks "for the nine-month agreed-upon time frame."
"Both sides remain committed. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment last week. So we will continue to proceed," she told reporters.
Following mediation by Washington, direct talks resumed in July after a three-year hiatus that was due primarily to Palestinian refusal to talk while settlement expansion continued.
Since, then Israel has announced plans to build thousands of new settler homes in the occupied West Bank – territory the Palestinians want for their future state under any peace deal.
Late on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered cancellation of plans to build 20,000 more homes in the West Bank, hours after their announcement sparked US and Palestinian criticism.
Abbas had warned that he would declare the peace process over if they went ahead.
He told Egyptian TV channel CBC late on Tuesday, November 12, that the negotiators had presented their resignations, but that he had not yet accepted them.
For his part, UN Middle East special coordinator Robert Serry issued a statement reiterating the position of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that settlements are "contrary to international law and an obstacle to peace."
Meanwhile Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri dismissed the resignations as a media stunt.
Speaking on behalf of the Islamist group, which holds sway in the Gaza Strip, he said it was necessary "to stop the negotiations, not change the negotiators." – Rappler.com